Pedaling by His Grace

bicycle-407215_640

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was 20 years old. Yep. 20. My brave, kind, compassionate husband, fiancé at the time, decided he would teach me. Let me preface this by saying I hate failing. I typically will not attempt to do anything that I may have a possibility of bombing. Just won’t even put the floaties on. So, there’s that. He showed me the parts of the bike. What controlled what. How I would get started. What not to do. And then, with heart pumping and legs shaking, I mounted the bike. I don’t remember much of what transpired after that moment. Except how I felt. Angry. Frustrated. Stupid. Scratched up. Nathan stayed calm and tried to keep things light. I eventually figured it out. Somewhat. Enough to say I could do it. Then, with tears in my eyes, I said I was done. That was enough. 

Fast forward to corona days. I wonder if a lot of us don’t feel like a 45-year-old trying to learn how to ride a bike for the first time. Except this time, we don’t have anyone to teach us. We keep mounting the bike, placing our feet on the pedals, only to fall to the asphalt and scrape both our knees. And our elbows. And it’s only 6:30am. We have these expectations of how our days should go. Meetings accomplished, kids schooled, house picked up. We’re supposed to have all this time to make decadent meals and frolic through the neighborhood hand-in-hand with grateful kiddos. Movies and popcorn (homemade) and giggles and high-fives. Soaring through the streets, riding our bike with one hand and eyes closed. 

But instead, we’re met with sibling bickering, broken glasses, dog hair gathering in the corners, hurt feelings, and tearful encounters. Bloodied hands and discouraged spirits. 

Although we haven’t been here before—in the midst of a global pandemic that has called life to slow in some ways and quicken in others—we have a God who foreknew this would come. A faithful God whose presence He promises to His beloved. Whose Spirit fills us and helps us to live out that which He has called us to. 

You know what’s most important? It’s not making this time a success for everyone in our homes. Who even knows what that success is or would look like? What’s most important is that we lean into a gracious and compassionate God. That we realize we need Him. That when we reach those 6:30am moments of desperation, we fall to our knees and cry out to Him. That we run to His word to renew our minds before the events of the day even transpire, and that we seek Him throughout our day. Moment by moment, listening to Him for guidance. Repenting when we fail, receiving His forgiveness. Getting back on the bike again. And telling the world we’ve nothing good apart from Him. 

I’m still shaky on my bike. Quite honestly, it’s not a very fun experience for me. Yet, each time I place my feet onto the wheels, I’m reminded of my humanness. I’m brought to humility. Perhaps we could say these not-so-fun circumstances are bringing us to a place we were never willing to go on our own. A place where we know we can’t go on without Him. Helmets on. Pedaling by His grace. 

That We Might Have Peace

Isaiah 53:2–12

[2] For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
[3] He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

[4] Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
[5] But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
[6] All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

[7] He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
[8] By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
[9] And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

[10] Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
[11] Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
[12] Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors. (ESV)


Grief, sorrow, affliction. We read those words with different eyes now, right? They carry new thoughts and feelings and experiences in this season. A different weight and the same weight all at once. This passage encompasses humankind’s utter destitution of soul and prophesies a Redeemer who will bear the burden and punishment of our sin and make intercession for His children. 

people-2591874_640

Here’s where I’m finding encouragement for us today: 

-PEACE: We’re struggling under this consistent anxiety the last two weeks. Change, grief, fears and worries. Loss of control. But we must remember today that Christ, our good Savior, has borne the very cross for us. The punishment for our sin. He suffered that we might have peace! Everlasting, unwavering, supernatural peace. The kind of peace that comes from our forever being known. From one day reaching our home that is void of sorrow, pain, sickness and suffering. 

No, we don’t know what will become of our checking or retirement accounts. We don’t know when we will get to hug one another or meet for coffee again. We don’t know if this virus will bring death to our bodies or take the lives of our loved ones. We don’t know the earthly suffering that lies ahead. But, we do know that Christ has carried our suffering. He lived and died and rose again that we might have peace!! Peace abundant. Peace eternal. If we allow our circumstances to determine our well-being, we will find ourselves on a moment-by-moment roller coaster of emotions. We negate the value of what Christ has done when we choose to succumb over and over again to worry and fear. We say, “It just was not enough.”

-APPLICATION: Stockpile Scripture. Here’s what I mean—keep reading God’s word so you can fight the temptation to fear and worry. Cling to God’s promises. Memorize them. Pray them back to God. Share them with others. Put them up on your mirrors and windows and walls. Immerse yourself in truth. Pray with faith in who God is. Christ intercedes for us, friends. That alone should give us great courage to pray boldly. Remind yourself of God’s character—that He’s good and sovereign and gentle and mighty-to-save. Pray to Him, remembering who He is. Encourage the saints. We can so quickly forget what Christ has done. Speak truth to one another. Share what God is doing in your life. Sing your thankfulness and gratitude. Pray for one another to stand firm in the battle for peace. 

We can live with hope because Christ has lived the life we couldn’t live. He has taken on the punishment we were due. He defeated death itself and lives that we might have new life in Him. Cling to who He is and what He has done. Receive the gift of His peace today. 

To the Church Universal

I shared this with our church family this week in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and hope it will serve as an encouragement to you in this new season as well.

church-pews-2401405_640

Potential Struggles:

-For those living alone and restricted of their usual gathering and contact points, loneliness can be greatly impacting them at this time. This can lead to intense feelings of isolation and depression.

-In houses with more than one person, you have multiple individuals struggling through discouragement, fear, anxiety, worry. This manifests in lack of sleep, illness, irritability and anger, short tempers and meltdowns.

-Our healthcare workers are laboring through 50-hour work weeks at best, and overwhelmed with their own exhaustion while navigating protocol and carrying the burdens and cares and fears of their patients.

-We’re all struggling through these changes that took place so quickly—disappointment over events being canceled, family visits postponed, school online or at home, the possibility of losing one’s job or retirement, and fears of ourselves or loved ones catching this virus.

-And with that, we’re lacking the regular rhythm of coming together. All of a sudden, the consistent gathering that Hebrews 10 exhorts us to not forsake cannot legally happen for the sake of health and wellness. The accountability and encouragement and reminder of the gospel can’t happen in the normal ways we’ve grown accustomed to.

So how do we then respond?

1. We must run to God’s word every day. Make this the one priority of our day. For many of us, this is going to look like getting up early because our normal times of quiet or alone time have been eliminated. We’ve got to remind ourselves of truth. Remind ourselves of who God is and receive the gift of His piercing word so that we might see our sin, confess it, and strive toward right living during this time. We need God’s word to lift our eyes from our present circumstances to our Ever-Faithful Father.

2. We must show grace to one another. Leave space to have feelings. Grieve what has been lost. But also remember who God is. Show understanding as we seek to move forward in this new and unprecedented season. Ask good questions and really listen to the feelings of others. This is where meditating on God’s word comes into play. We will not have the energy to muster up compassion day by day. We must return to the well, draw from His waters. Remember, the very power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us. The Holy Spirit lives within to live out what God has called us to. He will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

3. Get creative for meeting together, but meet together. Coming together is going to look different now than before. It may be frustrating as we navigate technology and try out new avenues for communication. Don’t give up. Facetime, text, call, email, send handwritten letters. Press on through the newness and the challenges for the sake of building up the body.

4. Give generously. Care for your neighbors. Join the Nextdoor forum for your neighborhood and see what needs are present. Go to the grocery store for someone in isolation. Share your toilet paper. Check in on those in the high-risk category around you. Support the church—keep giving and finding ways to serve. Call your parents and grandparents. Be the hands and feet of Jesus through this time.


Church, this is a new season for us all. It’s vital we see potential struggles and sins and seek to continue coming together in ways that are safe and beneficial to our communities. Remain planted in truth. Hear truth, receive truth, pray truth, speak truth. Live out your hope to those around you drowning in fear. Be carriers of peace.

Grieving Her Good

Coveting is marked by comparison and entitlement. Look where you’re comparing your life with others, grieving the good that has come to them, and you’ll quickly see where a longing has turned covetous. 

picket-fences-349713_640

I sat on my couch in quiet tears as I listened to Melissa Kruger define covetousness. All in one moment, I knew the source of my burden. So many months of anxiety uprooted and exposed. 

For some time, I had the feeling of being burnt out. Exhausted. Stressed. I was short with my family. Restless at night. Irritable and easily frustrated. I chalked it up to the many needs that screamed to be met. Homeschooling and parenting four, a husband pastor that needed my support, my role in various ministries, women in my life experiencing immense suffering and discouragement, neighbors hungry for the gospel. I truly enjoyed showing up for people. Praying for them and seeking to help in practical and loving ways. But lately, when new people came into my life, new needs presented themselves, new texts came through requesting prayer or attention, I, putting it quite frankly, freaked out. Why was something in which I typically found great joy causing great anxiety? 

Upon the gentle and encouraging advice of fellow women in ministry, I set up boundaries. Attempted to focus on the needs right in front of me and sought God for wisdom to know what to give attention to. I stopped trying to respond instantly to every call and text. I learned it’s okay to wait. Sometimes we love best by being slow to respond. 

This was hard for me, but I felt I was making progress toward becoming healthier in my service. While I didn’t know it at the time, God still had some massive uprooting that needed to take place. Sin patterns that penetrated deeply and had anchored in my heart over time. 

I’ve been leading a group of women through Kruger’s study on contentment. We had gone through a few weeks of defining contentment and discussing what it is and what it’s not. Then we came to the lesson on the enemy of contentment—covetousness. 

Kruger defines coveting as “an inordinate or culpable desire to possess often that which belongs to another”. Coveting is an umbrella term that encompasses envy, greed and lust in areas of romantic relationships, family and friend relationships, seasons and circumstances and giftedness and abilities. It’s not just limited to money and physical possessions. 

The Westminster Catechism answers which sins the commandment to not covet forbids: “The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.”

Kruger explained our neighbor is essentially who we can “see”, and who we can see now has dramatically increased with the addition of social media to our society. If we want to assess where our hearts have turned from just longing for something to actual covetousness, we can ask ourselves, “What good did I see come to my neighbor, and instead of rejoicing with her, I envied and grieved that good?”

In a moment, my mind was flooded with all the times I had been deeply hurt or frustrated when my helping of others was not received well or responded to with flamboyant gratitude and applaud. I thought of the times I heard or read how other people had shown up well. The times others’ meals or advice or babysitting or financial help was praised and made a significant difference in someone’s life. I wanted to be the one that made the most impact, listened most intently, communicated the most love. The helpfulness of others grieved me. 

I wrote to a friend, “…the Lord helped me see that my disappointment in my helping others is largely due to my coveting of others’ helpfulness. I see the way other women show up and provide and care in ways better than me or when it’s received better. And it really stings. I see myself anxious to try harder, show up more, get more creative. My pride, my own perfection in helping, seems to be what motivates me so much of the time. So when it doesn’t go well, I become discouraged because it was so much about me.”

It was as if the Lord so gently peeled away the layers of my stress and frustration to reveal the true source—the sin of covetousness that had gone unnoticed and undefined for so long.

While I believe Satan would have loved this to turn to guilt and shame and isolation, God brought in healing and hope. I confessed this to the Lord, asked His forgiveness and help to bring true repentance, and I received His grace. Grace abundant. I felt His freedom—a freedom only He could give. The exposure of my sin didn’t bring death. It brought life, hope, healing. Rest. It wasn’t my job to help everyone. It wasn’t even my job to discern what was the best help for those in my life. My role was simply to allow the Lord to lead and follow in obedience. It was all about loving Him and loving people. Praise God for the gift of His Son on the cross. To bear my sin, to defeat death and bring life. 

Friends, do you find yourself often anxious? Bitter? Discontent with your lot in life? Where everything good that comes your way seems to taste only sour? It might be helpful to ask, “Where do I find myself so often comparing my life to others? In what ways am I grieving at the good that comes to my neighbor?” 

“Coveting is a begetting sin, and it is dangerous. Coveting robs us of life and robs us of contentment.” Ask God’s help to see your sin. Lay it at His feet, and find hope and rest that can only come from Him. 

Prayer Guide–Psalm 33

Praying through a passage of scripture with others is one of my favorite practices.  Below you’ll find a guide to praying through Psalm 33. I’d love for you to gather friends, neighbors, or co-workers and walk through this together. I pray it encourages your heart and draws your thoughts to the throne.

holding-hands-752878_640


Praying Through Psalm 33

-Psalm 33 is a beautiful hymn of praise to our Almighty, Creator God. Together, read the entire psalm aloud. 

The Steadfast Love of the Lord

33

hShout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!

iPraise befits the upright.

Give thanks to the LORD with the jlyre;

make melody to him with jthe harp of kten strings!

Sing to him la new song;

play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.

For the word of the LORD is upright,

and all his work is done in mfaithfulness.

He nloves righteousness and justice;

othe earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.

By pthe word of the LORD the heavens were made,

and by qthe breath of his mouth all rtheir host.

He gathers the waters of the sea as sa heap;

he tputs the deeps in storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!

For uhe spoke, and it came to be;

he commanded, and it stood firm.

10  The LORD vbrings the counsel of the nations to nothing;

he frustrates the plans of the peoples.

11  wThe counsel of the LORD stands forever,

the plans of his heart to all generations.

12  xBlessed is the nation whose God is the LORD,

the people whom he has ychosen as his heritage!

13  The LORD zlooks down from heaven;

he sees all the children of man;

14  from awhere he sits enthroned he blooks out

on all the inhabitants of the earth,

15  he who fashions the hearts of them all

and observes all their deeds.

16  cThe king is not saved by his great army;

a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

17  dThe war horse is a false hope for salvation,

and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18  Behold, ethe eye of the LORD is on those who fear him,

fon those who hope in his steadfast love,

19  that he may gdeliver their soul from death

and keep them alive in hfamine.

20  Our soul iwaits for the LORD;

he is our jhelp and kour shield.

21  For our heart is lglad in him,

because we mtrust in his holy name.

22  Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us,

even as we hope in you.

-This psalm begins with a call to worship God and follows with reasons why His people should shout for joy and sing to Him a new song. As we follow through each section of verses, we will respond with prayers of thanksgiving, adoration, confession and supplication. 

(Read aloud Psalm 33:1-3) “Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

“God, we come before you today, each in different circumstances. We know that no matter how we feel, or whether we find ourselves atop a mountain or journeying through a valley, you are worthy of our praise. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight. May we focus on who you are today, and may the remembrance of that bring you much glory, and us great joy.”

(Read aloud Psalm 33:4-9) “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”

-God is powerful. His word is mighty. We see this displayed in creation: by His spoken word, the heavens were made; by His outbreath, the hosts of heaven. The mighty waters of the deep are gathered at His command. He is worthy of our fear and awe. 

“God, we praise you because your word expresses the very best of motives. When you speak, what you command produces its effect. You are a faithful and loving God. By your word, the heavens and earth were spoken into existence. We stand today, a people in awe of who you are and all you have done. May we see you as you are, God—Mighty, Creator, Artist, Lover, Sustainer. We praise you that you’ve got this. May we fear you rightly.”

-Briefly take a moment to tell your prayer partner how you’ve seen God’s power and steadfast love in your life recently. Take turns praying aloud a simple prayer of praise and gratitude for His power displayed in each other’s lives. 

(Read aloud Psalm 33:10-12) “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the people. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!”

“God, we thank you that your purposes stand forever. We praise you, because no power can stand against you. We thank you for continually showing us grace and bringing us to humility through the thwarting of our plans. Forgive us for the times we have doubted your goodness and your faithfulness. You are such a good God and sovereign leader. Thank you for choosing us! May we pass on a heritage of joyful submission to your purposes and plans.”

-Perhaps today you’re wondering how God could be working good in your current circumstance. Or maybe you’re frustrated that your plans have not worked out the way you hoped. Take a few moments to confess to your prayer partner any resentment, anger, or distrust of the Lord’s plans. Follow your confessions by a simple prayer, a declaration of trust in God and in His perfect plan. 

(Read aloud Psalm 33:13-19) “The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.”

-In Old Testament days, chariots and horses were means of protection and escape. Today, our “chariots and horses” come with different labels, yet they are no better off for providing salvation. God alone can deliver us.

“LORD, we praise you that you are El Roi, The God Who Sees. We praise you that you are high above the earth and yet look upon us and observe all our deeds. Who are we, that you are mindful of us? We thank you that you see and you care. We confess that we often rely upon our own strength or that of our spouses, friends, or pastors instead of seeking you, our Great Deliverer. We confess that we so often run to blogs, social media, Netflix, shopping and binge eating before we turn to you and to your word. Help us, in our weakness, to place our hope in you alone and in your steadfast love. May you be our might. May we see our need for rescue and cling to the arms of our Almighty Savior. Thank you for saving us.”

(Read aloud Psalm 33: 20-22) “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

“God, you are our help and our protection. We trust in who you are. May our hearts find great joy and gladness in you. May we rest today, knowing you are sovereign, you are good, you are mighty. We are confident that your purposes and plans are right and true. Help us to continually hope in you. When we fear and question and our emotions threaten to cloud out truth, bring us back to your word. Remind us of your faithfulness. In your steadfast love, help us to trust in your beautiful, holy name. For your glory among the nations and for the joy of your people.”

-Take turns praying aloud for one another in response to Psalm 33. 

-(Say together) “Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.”

*All Scripture passages are taken from the ESV.

*Some commentary was derived from the ESV Study Bible. 

*Additional commentary taken from “Lord, I Want to Know You,” by Kay Arthur

Choosing Death. Choosing Reliance.

I read about men and women being stripped of their skin and still praising our Savior. Those having their tongues cut out, and still raising their hands in adoration. They trust the goodness of their God even in the face of immense persecution and absolute pain. They rely on the help of the Holy Spirit to see with eternity’s eyes what’s really at hand. They cling to His power to finish the race in obedience and faith. 

I have not recently, nor ever, risked death or agony or the loss of all I love for Jesus’ name. 

But I have known what it means to fully rely upon the help of the Holy Spirit when you feel you have nothing left to give. 

When my husband is hurting, and the wrong that has been done him overwhelms. To swallow my “Look at all I’ve been doing for you!!” knowing I need to strive to really hear him and ask God to convict me of my own sin. When his words pierce because they’re not based on what I see as truth. But I know it’s how he feels. When my flesh just wants to clear myself of all wrong and tell him he’s believing lies. Listening, hearing, understanding. That takes Holy Spirit power. To breathe out my default and breathe in the sacrifice of self. 

When my kids are being trained. When we have to have the very same conversations over and over and over again with no sure hope of them getting it this time. When I have to choke down my anger when all I want to do is yell and tell them how dumb they’re being. My flesh wants to blow up, but I know I must respond in tenderness, firmness and grace. That takes Holy Spirit intercession. To breathe out the frustration and exhaustion and breathe in the peace that passes all understanding. 

people-2597796_640

Moment by moment. Choosing to take up my cross. Rely upon Him. 

It’s the day-to-day relationships, the dying of selfish gain, the surrendering of my expectations and hopes where I find my crossroads. The true test of my faith. “Will you step out in obedience? Will you choose to do what’s right, even when you feel you’ve lost all strength to do so? Will you rely upon Me fully, knowing I raised Christ from the dead, and I now live within you?”

Lord, remind me that your power resides within. Help me choose life by choosing the death of my selfishness. The death of my default. May I find great victory by the Holy Spirit within. For your glory alone. Amen.

I Saved a Life

 

14212810_10154550102202229_5257463129055069984_nLast night, we spotted what looked like a small iguana on our roof. It was fascinating. It didn’t look native to our area, so I wrote our neighborhood to see if someone was missing a pet.

We checked this morning, and he was still there. This afternoon, we checked again. Still there. He was roasting if he wasn’t already dead. I just knew he was stuck. Nathan assumed he was very likely toast. But what if he could still make it?

If I can chase a coral snake, surely I can climb a ladder, crawl up our roof and save this animal. So I donned my pants and protective gloves and climbed that ladder.

“Hey Buddy. We’re going to get you down, Bud.”14199136_980068309921_2187455149389034755_n

“Mom, why are you calling him Buddy?”

“Guys, he’s totally breathing.”

The ladder didn’t reach high enough for me to safely get on the roof. So we tried a broom, a rake…Finally two beach nets tied together. As I snatched him up in the net, I could tell he was definitely roasted. Crispy hard.

I pulled him down more. Very nervous he was going to fall on my face. But inching closer to the edge. The closer he got, the shinier and harder he appeared. Then he fell off the roof. The kids crowded around.

Judah scooped him up to my horror and said, “My lizard!”

“Huh? Put that thing down!”

“It’s my pet lizard, Mom. I got him at the Dollar Store. I forgot I threw him up there.”

———–

I saved a life today, folks. The life of a hard, plastic Dollar Store lizard.

14264201_980072651221_2484046914424443894_n

Leaving the Platform in Pursuit of the Table

“How do you do it? How do you find that balance between family and children and bed times and cleaning and hospitality?”

My genuine, simplified response was, “I don’t.”

About a year ago, I stepped mostly away from Facebook. It was pretty much the only online community of which I was an active member. I found great joy sharing my struggles, my joys, the hilariously honest accounts of life with four young children. Mothering as I struggled to find my identity, choosing my husband and our marriage when it meant dying to self, homeschooling, natural health. I found community in these Facebook friends. Likemindedness, fist bumps, “yeh, me, too’s”.

But something there was lacking.

Welcomed Otherness.

My friends, the groups I was a part of, the discussions I chose to join, we all shared common views, struggles, faith, or birth choices. And a big chunk of my attention, time, and thoughts was fully given to this group of Same. When there was “discussion”, it typically became heated and nasty and hate-filled, with little regard for the other’s story or background or experiences. Personhood was largely ignored, and one’s ideas alone were made the source of either praise or persecution.

So, in my concern, I left behind the platform in search of the table.

rmedjbaqign3isx7ccw.jpg

I knew the table offered a vital component that social media was lacking. People, in the flesh, present. Sitting side-by-side, gathered round a strategically cut and once smoothed piece of wood, indulging in a shared meal, asking questions and actually listening. The table offers the opportunity to see one’s facial expressions. To hear one’s inflection of voice. To discern what moves and frustrates and brings joy to another.

It’s been a learning process, yet a joy for me to intentionally invite and welcome in the Same, the Somewhat Different, and the Stark Opposite. To gather and eat and share and hear.

But “there’s always something to be lost around a table. Always something to be suffered,” my obviously wise husband replied to our dear friend upon my moderately  unhelpful remark. “Your grocery budget. Your time. Your space. Your children’s bedtime.”

And this, dear friends, is when the gospel, the good news of Jesus, changes the game.

Humankind began in the garden, in full fellowship and joyful community with God. But man chose to despise God’s good command, and sin entered the world. A sentence of death. A sinful mankind could no longer have perfect, unhindered fellowship with a holy God. But God. He sent His Son, Jesus, in human flesh, to a dying world because of the great love He has for us. Jesus lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death, but defeated death and rose again. Because of Christ’s blood poured out and through repentance of sin and belief in His death and resurrection, we can once again come into complete fellowship with our Creator God. We can join Him at the table. But there’s always something to be suffered.

Your very life.

Christ followers have died to self and received eternal life through Jesus. He gave His life as a ransom for our own. Nothing could compel us to sacrifice for another as the knowledge of Christ’s life for us–unworthy, sinful, other.

We’ve been brought to the table. And so we open our home and our time and our bank account because we’ve so graciously been welcomed, too. Some things lost, yes. Yet so much gained.

It’s typically not pretty. It’s chaotic and messy and sometimes loud and awkward. But it’s beautifully worth it to gather. These groups of Same, Somewhat Different, and Stark Opposites, sharing stories and struggles and silly jokes. Doubts and differing views welcomed.

I don’t think I’ll ever find a balance. A perfect rhythm of mothering and hospitality. But whatever gain I could have from that balance, “I count it all as loss,” as Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Philippi, “because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Don’t Miss the Beautiful

I recently read a fellow homeschooling parent’s miserable woes of this season: “I hate January and February.” The cold and rainy weather. The layers upon layers needed just to open the back door. Flu and RSV and stomach bug after stomach bug. Children are dreading the lessons, and quite frankly, we’re dreading making the kids do them.

Last year, the Lord worked the timing so perfectly. We finished a curriculum mid-year, so we set out on an adventure for two months learning all about our hometown–foods, history, people, places and culture. It was the dramatic distraction from the daily grind that we were all thirsty for.

However. This year, I pretty much had to agree with my forlorn friend.

We were at the point where each moment was spent trying to take the mic and explain to these creatures how valuable an education is and why they should love to do math and how grateful they should be to ride bikes between lessons and have their mother read aloud to them and do their spelling on the kitchen counter while snacking on popcorn and chocolate chips!

All the tantrums, all the tears, all the toil. And that was just me.

Deep breaths.

It was time for a break. I needed to put my focus back on the Divine. Back on His purpose. His calling for this schooling at home thing. Back on beauty and what a gift my creatures are.

The week of “Fun Schooling” really just came together. I had no plans. I just wanted to pair what I love and find inspiring with enjoying my children.

D372056F-1D00-4A0F-B7A4-03704BB3E1FF

Two of my friends had already offered to take the kids on two separate days. (Can we take a moment and pause and thank Jesus for good, loving, serving friends?) So that was already two huge chunks of time that I would get to recharge however I saw fit. The kids rode horses, fed goats, got muddy, helped to rebuild a structure for a garden, rode tractors and ate yummy food. They spent quality time with friends.

 

And while I knew my kids were in good hands, I strolled a local park, enjoyed chai and fresh watermelon aguas frescas, read C.S. Lewis and listened to “Teaching from Rest”. I journaled and caught up on women’s ministry planning and emails and studied scripture for a class I’m teaching. I sat with my face to the sun and noticed the first buds opening to the warming weather.

When the kids and I were home, I decided to make a trip to the store to purchase things we usually don’t. They each picked out a sketchbook, and we bought a package of

 

fine-tipped markers. We splurged on a new book, a box of decadent petit fours and a couple of comforting candles. I wasn’t sure exactly what we would do, but I knew I wanted it to be restful and cozy.

Upon arriving back home, we lit one of the candles, sampled a few cakes, and the kids sketched as I read from our new book. Even my son who typically refuses to draw or write anything was happy to take part! After lunch, I pulled out a couple of art books I’ve been collecting from various thrift stores. The kids picked one piece they liked, then sketched or painted their own interpretation. I jumped in on this one, too, and so thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’m an awful artist, but there’s something to be said for dipping a brush in paint and watching the colors dance across the page.

 

Another day we competed in Family Olympics. Each of us designed an event–Sequence Tournament, Taco Roll, Bunny Hop, Flamingo Balance and Golf. After all the tallies were made, we snuggled up with pillows and blankets (and a full mattress pulled out of a room) to watch a documentary on flying insects and birds.

This week included two date nights with my strapping husband. The time he chooses to spend with me fills my cup so. We ate scrumptious food at new-to-us restaurants, people-watched, caught up on life and laughed at one another’s idiosyncrasies. It was so sweet to be. Just us. Not rushing or working. Just enjoying.

Homeschooling parent or not, we all reach a time in our year where we are so focused on getting things done or the lack of sunshine or the abundance of laundry, that we miss the beautiful in this all. We forget the bigger picture. We lose the sense of holy.  I would encourage you to take a deep breath. Whatever that may look like for you. Fix your gaze on your Creator and His masterpiece of creation right in front of your face. Slow. Rest. The cold weather may remain. The viruses will still come and go. But we can find a way to see the band of sunlight peeking through the cracks. And perhaps, we’ll be asking for lots more Januarys and Februarys in years to come.

Hope When Anger Cripples

kid-2529907_640

Our 12th anniversary. My husband surprised me with a lavish massage, Thai dinner, and weekend away to rest and enjoy one another. The weather was perfect, the laughter contagious, and I finally felt like I could breathe deeply. I was dancing in a ray of God-given sunshine.

And then, we picked up our four young kids and returned to the daily life of dishes, laundry, homeschool, messes, attitude and activities. Within hours, maybe minutes, of being back at home, my impatience, yelling, discouragement and overwhelm clouded out any encouragement I had gained from our few days of blessed rest.

So quick a change. So drastic.

I felt like I was crippling my children. Causing them to be scared into obedience. I knew it was awful. Reaping the temporary result I wanted while purchasing a future I never fathomed them to endure.

Huddled in a pile of tears and deep thoughts, I felt stuck. Really stuck. I knew something had to change.

This is nothing new to me. I’ve been dealing with discouragement and fits of anger and rage since we began having children ten years ago. So I’m not here writing like I’ve figured it all out. That the struggle is over. But I wanted to list out a handful of questions I take myself through or discuss with a Christ-believing friend. Because staying angry and lashing out at our kids is not okay. There is grace when we fail–grace abundant for those who are in Christ Jesus. But we have been saved to walk in NEW LIFE! The very power that raised Christ from the dead lives within us. We must repent and seek to live as God calls us to live. He has made a way!

If you find yourself in a cycle of anger, pray, pray, pray. Ask God for wisdom and help. Then seek out a trusted friend or mentor and walk through these evaluating questions–perhaps they might help to shed some light and bring hope and healing.

  1. What am I believing?
    1. The Apostle Paul makes it clear in his letters of the New Testament that right thinking leads to right living for the redeemed. So if we find ourselves living in an unholy way, we are likely believing falsities. It’s crucial we ask ourselves what it is we are believing that is leading to these angry outbursts.
  2. Am I taking care of my health?
    1. Have I been eating well?
    2. Does my daily routine include exercise?
    3. Am I getting sufficient sleep?
    4. Do I need to see a healthcare provider?
  3. Have I taken time lately to recharge away from the routine of daily life? Do I have a plan to care for my emotional and spiritual well being?
  4. What do I find beautiful and inspiring? Have I been integrating that at home?
  5. Am I an active member of a local church? Do I currently have others I can readily confess to, confide in, and seek encouragement from? Are others praying for me?
  6. Am I spending time with God through prayer and studying His word regularly?
    1. Meditating on God’s word is crucial to moving our gaze from the present circumstance to the eternal. We will never have a right and lofty view of God apart from reading His word and growing in the knowledge of who He really is.

Friend, you are not alone in this struggle. I’m not here to tell you, “It’s okay–we all do it.” Anger and rage apart from the righteous anger of God is sin. But there is grace–grace sufficient to cover you and cover your children’s future. And there is hope. Hope through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Hope through the Blood of Lamb. Cry out to Him! Cling to His mighty right hand!

 


“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15